A Deeper Look Into Dual Diagnosis

People with dual diagnosis have both- an underlying or co-occurring mental illness, as well as a drug or alcohol use disorder. The link  between mental illness and substance use has always been a complex issue. Although, substance use can change the chemical balance in the brain leading to mental health issues.

Dual diagnosis and self-medication :

A common issue around dual diagnosis is self-medication. This often involves the use of drugs or alcohol to mask or relieve the symptoms of a mental illness. Although certain drugs may temporarily relieve a person’s mental health symptoms, they are sure to worsen them in the long run.

Common co-occurring conditions :

Not to be confused with cross-addiction, it is estimated that up to 45% of people suffering from a substance misuse disorder have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Common mental health disorders linked to substance abuse include:

  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
signs of addiction

Key components of managing dual diagnosis :

  1. Thorough Assessment:

    • Individuals undergo a comprehensive evaluation to identify both the substance use disorder and the co-occurring mental health disorder.
    • This assessment encompasses medical, psychological, and social evaluations, forming the basis for a personalized treatment plan.
  2. Integrated Treatment:

    • An integrated treatment model is crucial, concurrently addressing both addiction and mental health issues.
    • Treatment plans may include medication management, psychotherapy, counseling, and support groups tailored to the unique needs of the individual.
  3. Collaborative Care:

    • A multidisciplinary team, consisting of addiction specialists and mental health professionals, collaborates to provide holistic care.
    • Coordination among professionals ensures a cohesive treatment approach, addressing all facets of the individual’s well-being.
  4. Stabilization and Detoxification:

    • Initial focus may be on stabilizing and detoxifying individuals from substances, with medical supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications.
  5. Behavioral Therapies:

    • Evidence-based behavioral therapies, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Motivational Interviewing, are integral to dual diagnosis treatment.
  6. Medication Management:

    • Medications may be prescribed to manage both the addiction and the mental health disorder. For instance, antidepressants or mood stabilizers may complement addiction treatment medications.
  7. Supportive Services:

    • Support groups and peer support, including organizations like Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA), provide a vital community for individuals facing similar challenges.
  8. Relapse Prevention:

    • Strategies for relapse prevention are tailored to address both substance use and mental health aspects, mitigating the risk of relapse.
  9. Continued Monitoring and Aftercare:

    • Ongoing monitoring and aftercare are essential post-treatment, involving regular therapy sessions, support groups, and check-ins to ensure sustained recovery.

Responding to dual diagnosis :

Mental health and substance use services need to take into account the more complex nature of dual diagnosis. It is possible for these disorders to be the underlying cause of addiction. This is why it is important not to ignore the symptoms of a behavioral disorder or mental health issue. Sometimes, the addiction is addressed while the mental health condition goes without treatment. This in turn can cause a vicious cycle. Abstaining from substance abuse, especially if it has served as a coping mechanism, can lead to the mental health issue worsening, increasing the risk of relapse.

Additionally, those with dual diagnoses seem to be more at risk of social isolation, anti-social behavior, violence, suicidal behavior, relapse, and homelessness.

Assessment and treatment :

Dual diagnosis requires an integrated approach to both assessment and treatment. There is often difficulty pinpointing whether specific issues came from substance use or mental illness, but comprehensive treatment for both conditions is usually the best course of action. It also is essential that treatment, which can include both medication and behavioral therapies, be tailored to the individual’s specific combination of disorders and symptoms.

Recovery852  assists individuals and families struggling with addiction and other mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Recovery852 offers non-emergency outpatient services to people affected by substance misuse. With over fifteen years of experience and over 3,000 hours of clinical experience working in addiction recovery, we offer personal, tailor-made outpatient treatment programs with an emphasis on shifting from a life of chaos, conflict, and crisis to recovery and wellness. Contact us today.